For many people, hate groups are more an abstract concept than a real, physical threat. But they’re growing – both in the U.S. and Florida specifically – and the Charlottesville, Virginia attack that killed one woman and injured several people shows their destructive capabilities.
The KKK, the oldest and most infamous hate group, reached its most recent low point in 2014, when there were 72 local groups. It exploded to 190 groups in 2015, and then dropped back to 130 in 2016, according to the nonpartisan civil rights organization Southern Poverty Law Center.
Florida, on the other hand, has had a fairly steady climb over the same time period. There were two active KKK groups in Florida in 2014, increasing to five in 2015 and eight in 2016. Most active chapters are concentrated in central and northern Florida, in Jacksonville, Live Oak, Cape Coral, Hudson, Cocoa, Wauchula and Bushnell. Hudson has two chapters with active groups.
It’s unclear why chapters in Florida are increasing as national trends fluctuate, but Mark Potok at the Southern Poverty Law Center writes that the explosion of KKK groups nationally in 2015 was likely mostly due to the 2014 disappearance of the two main groups – Fraternal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the Knight Rider Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Members of those groups likely started their own chapters quickly after those stopped being active.
Klan groups tend to be short-lived, according to the Anti-Defamation League, because many KKK groups are led by self-appointed “Imperial Wizards” and then fail to garner support from individual members, according to the Anti-Defamation League. There is no longer a central group tying each one together as there was when it was first founded in 1865.
“One Pennsylvania Klansman recently lamented on social media that there were more Imperial Wizards on Facebook than at Hogwarts Academy,” a report by ADL says, estimating that there are about 3,000 Klansmen nationwide.
There have been no significant demonstrations by the KKK in Florida since the early 1990s, when protests occured in cities such as Palm Beach, Davie and Boca Raton. Most Klan activities recently revolve more around circulating fliers, with a recent incident of this reported in Hudson in June. A neighborhood in the city had a recruitment flyer for the local chapter in nearly every driveway, according to WFTS.
“White brothers and sisters, there is nothing hateful in showing pride in your race. The liberals have gone to a great deal of effort to make us feel ashamed of our own folk. The KKK wants you!” the flier read.
The KKK is not the only hate group in the U.S. The Southern Poverty Law Center report says there are 917 hate groups actively operating across the United States, a steady increase over the 892 in 2015 and 784 in 2014. California ranks number one with 79 groups and Florida follows, with 63 active hate groups.
The Klan typically targets black people, but it has also attacked Jews, immigrants, members of the LGBT community and Catholics.